For it is by grace you have been saved...

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Strange Life of a Pastor

I recently saw a couple fun things about pastors that are both based on old jokes, but both were pretty good.  One was passed along by my wife's cousin, a cartoon from Family Circus:

The other was a meme about how ministry can "age" you:

I love these.  I love laughing at myself, and it's a good thing, since there is so much to laugh about.  But seriously, folks... Pastoral ministry is a unique calling in many ways. Lots of positives and negatives together.  But as an old college professor used to say: "If God has called you into ministry, don't lower yourself to be president of the United States."

I wish I could summarize all the ups and downs, the ins and outs of this calling.  But someone else already has, and much better than I ever could.  This is a post from a pastor named Julian Freeman from several years back. I've had it in my files for a long time now, and seeing those funnies, and thinking about the whole thing, made me think of this. 

I hope he doesn't mind me reposting it here.  If you'd like, you can read his original post here.  This is a wonderful summary of this strange thing called Pastoral Ministry:

Being a pastor is a strange thing.

We proclaim a message with the power of God to change people, but we can’t even change ourselves. We call others to perfection, as Jesus did, but our lives are full of imperfection. We must shepherd like the Shepherd though we’re just one of the sheep.

We seek to make Christ increase (though he’s invisible to human eyes) as we seek to decrease (though we stand in plain view week-by-week). We say numbers don’t matter, but long for many to be saved. We labour to grow the church, even though we realize each soul increases our accountability before God.

We try to express the Infinite and Eternal in 45 minutes or less; obviously we fail, so we try again next week.

We spend our lives studying a book that we’ll never fully grasp and we labour to explain it to a people who can’t understand apart from the work of a third party. The more we study, the more certain we become of the wisdom of God and our own foolishness; and yet we must preach on.

We are told that not many should be teachers and that there will be stricter judgement for those who are, and yet, we cannot fight off the compulsion to preach. We call people to something they can’t do, with an authority that is not our own, and then at the end of our lives we give an account to God for the souls we pastored.

We are called to toil in the word of God and in prayer; yet there is nothing our enemy opposes more actively. We work to build a community where people are connected, while occupying an office filled with temptations to isolation.

We preach a gospel of joy, but preachers are hard pressed with temptations to depression.

We must preach with passion but pastor with patience. We must be gentle with the sheep and fierce with the wolves. And we must somehow discern the difference.

We must plead with people to repent and believe all the while knowing that it is God who must save. We plead with God in prayer until our wills align with his. We must earnestly seek the presence of the Spirit, knowing full well that he moves where he pleases.

We must labour with all of our strength but never, ever trust it. We are paid to satisfactorily do a job that never ends: When have I studied enough? When have I prayed enough? When have I mentored enough? When have I counselled enough? We who are never finished are called to lead others to rest in the finished work of Jesus.

Ultimately we labour and long for results that we can never achieve. Being a pastor is a lifelong journey to a place of utter dependence.

This is strange work, being a pastor. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. 

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